Being a parent is a full-time job, one that requires being on call 24/7 and dealing with new challenges every day. At times, it can be exhausting and frustrating. And in some tragic cases, that frustration can lead to child abuse and neglect.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), parental feelings of isolation, stress and frustration are major causes of child abuse and mistreatment in the U.S. That’s why Seattle Children’s Hospital is asking parents, caregivers, and the community to make “Positive Parenting Pledges” in recognition of National Child Abuse Prevention Month this April.
The sad and alarming statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services speak for themselves:
- Each day, nearly five children in the U.S. die from abuse and neglect. Approximately three million cases of child abuse and neglect are reported each year.
- Nearly 80 percent of reported child fatalities as a result of abuse and neglect were caused by one or more of the victim’s parents.
- Abusers are typically someone the child knows, such as a parent, caregiver, neighbor or other family member.
A positive parenting pledge is a pledge to the children in your life: to play more board games, take a breath when needed or support other parents. Jennie Spohr, of Seattle, saw the effects of abuse firsthand as a child. Now, as a mother of two, she pledges to “embrace the turbulence” that comes with being a parent.
With all the information in the world today, there are so many standards we make ourselves live up to as parents. We need to remember that it’s impossible to be the perfect parent. The perfect parent is a parent that loves their kid. As parents we need to bust the myth of perfection and pledge instead to be the best we can be for our children. We need to help each other love our children.
Just today my child had a meltdown over a pastry. I didn’t understand it until I was a mother – how you can be so mad at someone, but so in love with them at the same time. I would walk across glass on my knees for my child. But at the same time, if they don’t move their tush when mommy asks, sometimes I feel like I could have a meltdown myself. Sometimes I feel like mommy and daddy need time – outs of our own, to calm down and check ourselves.
Now I know the best thing you can do to help another parent in the midst of a meltdown is offer a look of commiseration: open the door for a parent when their hands are full, or grab the item their child just chucked across the room. Just as there is no perfect parent, there is no perfect child. Meltdowns happen. Our job as parents needs to be to support each other.
I understand the urge some parents may feel when their child is crying to just make them stop. You feel a rage building up in you. As adults we’ve learned to take care of ourselves first, have complete autonomy. When we become parents we don’t have that autonomy anymore. You put yourself in a different place, fourth or fifth. We’re no longer first and it can be frustrating.
But when you hear about child abuse it really gets you. It’s like being punched in the gut. It’s sad, though, because child abuse happens everywhere, not just in low-income households or only in these horrific ways we hear on television. Abuse can be insidious and unnoticed. It can happen in our own backyard. It’s not other people’s issue; it’s everyone’s issue. When there is injustice for one child there is injustice for our own.
Learning how to parent takes a lot of time too. I feel like I’m in class 15 hours a day. I’m up at night reading through best practices – how to discipline correctly, best nutrition, etc. I just feel behind. As parents we’re being overwhelmed. It’s like we’re being taught to focus all our energy being the best. What we need is a community of parents supporting each other.
My mantra is, “This is a season.” There are things in every season that are beautiful, but sometimes we don’t recognize them until the season is over. In winter we can’t wait for the cold to be over, but in the midst of it we realize there’s no more skiing or hot cocoa when winter ends. Seasons will pass, but hold on to the good memories, realize there is light at the end of the tunnel. That’s my suggestion to parents.
Make a pledge today
Together, we can help raise awareness for child abuse and strengthen our community. Join us on Facebook and make a pledge today to show your support for other parents and raise awareness for child abuse prevention.
Children’s will also finish planting thousands of pinwheels on the hospital campus as a symbol of hope and support. The pinwheel planting is a yearly tradition at Children’s, and people may purchase their own pinwheels at hospital gift shops to place outside.
Resources for parents and caregivers on managing stressful situations can be found on Seattle Children’s Protection Program Resources site.